The truth behind the school dropout rates in Knysna

School Dropout Rates in Knysna

We all know the tragic statistics in South Africa, that every second child who starts Grade 1 will never make it to Grade 12

According to the latest NIDS-CRAM findings school dropouts tripled from pre-pandemic numbers to a worrying 750,000 children as of 2021, who will drop out of the schooling system.

The system is not working for our children who face an uncertain future with rising levels of unemployment and poverty and are being pushed closer to the brink as a result of the pandemic.

Teachers are overwhelmed by overcrowded classrooms, lack of discipline and motivation, and unrealistic curriculum demands.

Long working hours restrict the time that parents can spend with their children, which may have an impact on the emotional and intellectual development of a child. Added to this, unemployment and lack of food security are rising, and more and more kids have to raise themselves while caring for younger siblings.

While the dropout rate has always been grim, since the pandemic struck we are witnessing the highest out-of-school numbers in 20 years.

Kids drop out of school due to various reasons, including:

  •   The need to work to support their families
  •   Failed exams and a lack of enthusiasm
  •   Prevailing poverty
  •   A sense of being “educated enough.”
  •   The need to care for other family members
  •   Lack of access to reliable school transport
  •   Violence at school

In our country the right to an education far too often clashes with the need to work, where children living in poverty are forced to make tough choices to survive. This makes returning to school after extended absences seem near impossible. What child can thrive, given these circumstances?

UNICEF South Africa and Afrika Tikkun call for children and young people to be put first in the Covid-19 recovery, to ensure their voices and opinions are heard as we work to reimagine a safer, fairer and better South Africa for every child, for everyone…  Daily Maverick

At KILT we believe this is our collective responsibility now.

Knysna Initiative for Learning and Teaching (KILT) is working to turn the tide by supporting teachers in the classroom, helping kids in their personal development through sports and other activities, and supporting communities to grow food.

KILT continues to build upon the foundation laid by Gill Marcus in 2016, when she stepped up to help school principals find ways to overcome these challenges, confident in the belief that it takes a village to raise our children.

We currently have 18 projects in 17 schools, each carefully designed by us in consultation with experts and managed by specialists in their respective fields, who believe in the future of each of the 13 300 children they serve.

KILT’s first step was to bring in more teachers to reduce the large class sizes, which dramatically improved the quality of teaching and learning. Teachers and children were more enthusiastic about being in an environment where they could concentrate and learn. The foundation phase (Grade 1-3) paves the way to lifelong learning. KILT has seen the benefits of providing teaching assistants during this critical phase.

Learning to read and reading to learn are the keys to academic success, yet so many children in our high schools cannot read with understanding and become disillusioned and feel that school isn’t for them. As a result, many start skipping school and eventually drop out.

Our after-school study clubs provide a safe environment to do homework and learn new study techniques. You would be amazed at the progress the kids who attend these study clubs have made. Besides the typical academic route, we don’t discount the importance of sport in engaging students; kids can learn to work as a team and get rid of pent-up energy in the after-school sports project, a proven method to reduce school and community violence. KILT has also introduced security guards safety patrols at some of the higher- risk schools in Knysna, resulting in safer schools with fewer reports of gangsterism.

E-Learning integration is a new reality, as online learning becomes the norm. In addition, KILT supports schools with ICT technicians, and we are on our way to equipping each school with state-of-the-art hardware and software. We need to adopt the best technology so that no child gets left behind and then make teachers and children comfortable with using the latest technology for teaching and learning.

Mental wellness goes hand in hand with thriving communities; people often need a safe space to talk through and process their emotions. Unfortunately, these tools are usually so far out of reach for working-class families that mental health isn’t addressed and can lead to severe consequences.

KILT’s Psycho-Social Projects include learner counseling and teacher wellbeing, parent guidance and information, and mentorship through clubs and leadership courses.

You can’t teach a hungry child. KILT provides about 7000 meals per week by supporting two school feeding schemes, seven school gardens, and 19 soup kitchens. This food support helps alleviate the strain on families who have been plunged below the breadline by the pandemic. Those involved learn new, sustainable practices, such as food gardening, which contributes to self-reliance and builds more resilient communities.

The world has changed in the aftermath of the devastation of Covid-19. By supporting all of our Knysna school children, we are building the road beyond and changing the trajectories of their futures. We are ensuring stronger, safer, happier and healthier communities, and, in so doing, we are creating the kind of town we can all be proud to call home.

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